Universality in language has been a core issue in the fields of linguistics and psycholinguistics for many years (e.g., Chomsky, 1965). Recently, Frost (2012) has argued that establishing universals of process is critical to the development of meaningful, theoretically motivated, cross-linguistic models of reading. In contrast, other researchers argue that there is no such thing as universals of reading (e.g., Coltheart & Crain, 2012). Reading is a complex, visually mediated psychological process, and eye movements are the behavioural means by which we encode the visual information required for linguistic processing. To investigate universality of representation and process across languages we examined eye movement behaviour during reading of very comparable stimuli in three languages, Chinese, English and Finnish. These languages differ in numerous respects (character based vs. alphabetic, visual density, informational density, word spacing, orthographic depth, agglutination, etc.). We used linear mixed modelling techniques to identify variables that captured common variance across languages. Despite fundamental visual and linguistic differences in the orthographies, statistical models of reading behaviour were strikingly similar in a number of respects, and thus, we argue that their composition might reflect universality of representation and process in reading.
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